Falcons kicker Bryant’s leg injury steered strategy vs. Panthers

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons Pro Bowl kicker Matt Bryant said Monday that he suffered an injury to his kicking leg before Monday’s game at Carolina, and although he kicked in Atlanta’s 20-17 loss to the Panthers the Falcons went through the first half uncertain about his field goal range.

Television showed Bryant, 42, favoring his right calf Sunday after kicking a 53-yard field goal in the first quarter, but he would not confirm the nature of the injury Monday other than to say, “there were problems there, yes,” and, “it’s injured down there. On that category, I guess it'd be up to coach to tell.”

Head coach Dan Quinn in his earlier press conference acknowledged that Bryant informed him of an injury and that contributed to his decision for the Falcons to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Carolina 35 in the second quarter. He did not give details about the injury other than to say it was not a recurrence of back issues that plagued Bryant and limited his practice time last month.

Bryant informed Quinn of the injury after his field goal following the first possession of the game.

“After that, he did. That’s what held us back,” the coach said. “When we knew he was limited we didn’t want to try to extend him with a long one.”

Devonta Freeman was stuffed for no gain on the play, and the Panthers took over at the 50-yard line with the help of an unsportsmanlike penalty call against tight end Austin Hooper. Carolina drove to a score that cut Atlanta’s lead to 10-7.

Bryant said the injury first began bothering him during final warm-ups before the game.

“Apparently, it's something that has been just kind of a nagging thing,” he said. “It was just on a kick during the warm-up after national anthem.”

The field goal made it worse, although he later kicked two extra points. 

“I felt it [after the field goal],” he said. “We shortened up the range for the rest of the half. When I came back after halftime, if there was a situation in the fourth quarter, I was able to figure out I could have kicked further than we originally determined to be a safe range . . . You know what, it would have been I think we said I would have attempted a 53-yard kick at that point.”

Trailing 20-10, the Falcons faced fourth-and-1 at the Carolina 39 on their first possession of the fourth quarter. Rather than send Bryant out for a 56-yard field goal, Atlanta went for it and Matt Ryan threw incomplete to Julio Jones.

“Normally, if Matt’s in range, we give him the green light,” Quinn said. “We trust him so much.”

Bryant, who led the NFL in scoring last season with a franchise-record 158 points, this season has made 15-of-18 field goals and all 17 of his extra points.

Asked if he felt he would be ready to play Sunday against the Cowboys, Bryant said, “On the day off tomorrow I'll get some treatment and just keep getting treatment. From what I've been told, yes, there's a chance.”

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